England Schools 3 Rep of Ireland Schools 2 - Peter White reports

THE luck of the Irish turned sour in stoppage time at Ewood last night.

But victory for England was a fitting way for Blackburn and Darwen SFA to celebrate their centenary.

It was also appropriate that two youngsters who have committed themselves to Blackburn Rovers were members of the successful England under-15s side.

Both played a significant part in a victory which was a trifle fortunate in an entertaining encounter.

Goalkeeper Michael Bingham, from Leyland, didn't have a chance with either of the two superbly-taken Irish goals;.

But he displayed clean handling and made a crucial save in the dying minutes, moments before England snatched their winner.

Rovers' other associate schoolboy, Steven Flitcroft - brother of Garry - played the holding role, anchoring midfield for England and showed several qualities.

Clearly a thoughtful player, he rarely wasted possession, always tried to make himself available and, despite playing against physically bigger opponents, wasn't afraid to go in hard.

Flitcroft also played a significant part in one of the game's best moments, the build-up to England's first goal. Ireland had taken a 12th minute lead when poor defending - not for the last time - by England's back three had left Liam Miller unmarked to place a deft header in Bingham's bottom corner.

But England, with Everton's Leon Osman and West Ham's Joe Cole catching the eye with their surging runs from midfield, hit back with a double strike on 29 and 35 minutes.

Flitcroft produced a superb defence-splitting pass to put Cole through and keeper Joseph Murphy made a great save to concede a corner. From it, the ball was flicked on at the near post and Leon Mike hit the ball high into the net.

Six minutes later the ball was humped forward, Murphy and his defenders showed a moment's hesitancy allowing Perry Taylor, on Tranmere's books, to nip in and head over the keeper.

Ireland took only five minutes to equalise in the second half when Brendan McGill struck a superb free kick into the top corner from 25 yards. It was anyone's game after Graham Barrett struck the bar with a cracking drive for the Irish, then they almost won it with another free kick. Barrett fired through the wall but the unsighted Bingham did brilliantly to save.

The winner came in stoppage time as sub Paul Burke's cross proved too hot for Murphy to handle and, in the ensuing scramble, the ball went over the line.

It seemed to have come off a defender but another England sub Chris O'Brien was claiming the credit.

Organising secretary Brian Woodhead, of the local SFA, said: "We were reasonably pleased with the attendance of 3,250, though we had hoped for a better local response.

"Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable night and everything seemed to go very well."

ENGLAND: Bingham, Hanson, Strange (sub McReady), Armstrong (O'Brien), Flitcroft, Osman, Warnock, Mike, Taylor (Burke), Cole, Wright.

REP OF IRELAND: Murphy, Thompson, Foy, O'Shea, O'Reilly (Kelly), Butler, McGill (Grogan), Miller, Barrett, McMahon, Molloy (Whelan).

REF: P Harrison (Northwich)

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